Athletes and organizers currently hard at work preparing for the Saskatchewan Winter Games now have one more task to complete - get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 before the start of the games.
The Saskatchewan Games Council said this decision will "provide the safest possible environment for all participants, volunteers and attendees."
Those attending the games will need to get their last shot at least two weeks before their arrival at the Games, and will need to show proof of vaccination. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test will not be accepted as an alternative.
The requirement applies to athletes, coaches, managers, mission staff, officials, volunteers, media, event staff and spectators.
And while some provincial sport organizations are not requiring proof of vaccination, the Saskatchewan Games Council says it will be needed to keep competitors safe.
"The opportunity for virus spread, especially COVID-19 variants, in a games environment is higher than an individual sport competition," the council said in a news release. "At a multi-sport event such as the Saskatchewan Winter Games, participants will … spend extended time indoors with limited ability to physically distance."
At this point, children under the age of 12 - who are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Canada - will not be allowed to participate in the games this year.
"The Saskatchewan Games Council is optimistic that youth under the age of 12 will receive Health Canada approval in the near future, which will allow athletes in this age category to be fully vaccinated and eligible to participate in the Games," the council said.
The Winter Games are scheduled to take place in Regina from February 20th to 26th, 2022.
The previous Saskatchewan Games, which were scheduled to be held in Lloydminster in 2020, were postponed and then cancelled due to the pandemic.